June 2018
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Sean of the South

Sean Dietrich enjoys the outdoors with his coonhound Ellie Mae. He often jests about her “odors,” but he readily admits “she made my life perfect!”

 

Sean Dietrich, who considers himself “an adopted son of Alabama,” thrills and inspires countless fans with his unique musings and storytelling recorded in his blog, books, podcasts and music.

Sean Dietrich, better known as "Sean of the South," says he is a thinker, a watcher and a talker, but not a writer. His thousands of loyal fans would disagree. Not only is he an accomplished writer but also a master communicator. In fact, many of his followers believe Dietrich carries on a daily dialogue – just with them!

Dietrich was born in Missouri, but his family eventually settled in Walton County, Florida, where he and his wife Jamie now live.

Dietrich writes often about his parents. He believes he inherited his talkativeness from his mother, whom he affectionately described as "the most talkative person I have ever known," adding that "she could still whip up a conversation with a brick." His storytelling ability, however, came from his father.

Dietrich’s childhood deeply influenced his writings. At the age of 12, his father committed suicide, leaving what he would later refer to as "a shadow I thought would never lift." He quit school early, went to work to help his mother and sister, and drifted through a host of "loser jobs."

That shadow lifted when he met his wife Jamie.

"She was the rest of my life in a dress. ... She’s done things for me. She let me cry on her shoulder when my boss fired me. She held my hand, in an ambulance after I totaled my truck. She tutored me in college algebra. She helped me piece together my education. She told a fatherless flunky he was every bit as smart as anyone else. She loved me. I just felt like telling you about the reason I believe in God. Her name is Jamie."

Jamie grew up in Brewton and, when they married 15 years ago, her family welcomed him into their fold.

Dietrich felt that Brewton became his hometown, because he truly felt he belonged there.

 

Jamie Dietrich, right, travels with her husband and schedules his events. At a speaking engagement in Grove Hill, LeeAnn Moore and Jamie discovered they had mutual friends from Brewton, Jamie’s hometown.

Dietrich calls himself "the adopted son of Alabama" or "the adopted son of Brewton." He uses an outline of the state as his logo, and he titled his blog Sean of the South after the song, "Song of the South," recorded by the country group, Alabama.

Dietrich has written his blog for over four years. At first, he used 460 words and posted it at exactly 11:27 each night. Through the years, however, he has made some noticeable changes.

"I’ve become more gabby!" he laughed. "Brevity is my discipline. Now, I can feel when I hit 500-550 words!"

His writing process has also evolved. He uses a computer, although he misses the callouses on his fingers from holding a pencil or pen.

"Now, I vomit on the page and then go back," he laughed. "I labor more now. I never thought I’d enjoy the writing process as much as I do. I’m really trying to speak to myself first. I find I’m looking for people without even knowing it: single mothers, mechanics, dental students, pain-pill addicts, homeless drunks, county prisoners, veteran amputees, immigrant students, preachers, burnt-out bartenders, football coaches, nurses, electricians, factory workers, janitors, writers. …

"I felt overlooked for a long part of my life. I guess I have a soft spot for the overlooked."

In Dietrich’s stories, the plot holds readers spellbound until it suddenly makes a U-turn, leading to an unexpected surprise. At the end, readers gain a greater awareness, better understanding and clearer vision. Many readers comment that Dietrich’s words have given them just what they "needed" or he helped them at a difficult moment in their lives. Others say that he should "buy some stock in Kleenex!"

Amanda Walker, another popular South Alabama writer, offered this observation.

"Sean Dietrich writes on another frequency," she said. "He is good at finding the best of us in the most ordinary places. He accepts people as he meets them. He is not afraid to look at circumstances straight. And then he has a way of mirroring them into words we can all relate to on some level."

Sean performed in Monroeville at the old courthouse, where the play, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” is performed each year.

 

Dietrich’s honesty and simplicity connect him to his readers, but he also splices his lines with humor. He snickers about playing "53 verses of ‘Amazing Grace’" at a nursing home or sniggers about deliberately using the word "good" incorrectly in front of an English professor. He lauds church ladies who "will live forever through their casserole recipes," but laments that "Pillsbury’s tube-biscuits are taking over the universe."

Some of his most heartfelt moments come when he muses about his 13-year-old coonhound Ellie Mae, who is usually riding shotgun in his pickup. Her recent death brought one of his most poignant tributes, thanking her for "making my life complete."

"Even though she smells like rotten oysters and stale armpit hair, she has made my life perfect," he wrote.

Dietrich is also a gifted musician and his writings reflect his inner musical conversation. For years, he has played guitar, piano and accordion with various bands. He plays by ear and is blessed with perfect pitch – gifts given only to a chosen few. He had dreams of becoming a jazz musician, until he had an encounter with reality. He tried out for the music program at Florida State. When a professor placed a written piece before him, he was unable to read it.

"I had always been able to fake it, but not then," he recalled.

His life plans changed after this incident, and he began to write. He wrote about things he knew: a world filled with forgotten people.

"It took me a long time to realize who I was," he mused. "I don’t really have a message. At first, I just wanted to make people laugh, but then my own history started to get involved, and things took a change. My writing has become more meaningful."

 

Sean Dietrich has gained a loyal following with his stories about the unnoticed in society. He calls his blog “Sean of the South.” (Photo credit: Joseph Victor Stefanchik

Dietrich has gained widespread recognition and respect with his works appearing in Southern Living, South Magazine, Yellowhammer News, Good Grit, the Bitter Southerner, Thom Magazine, Tallahassee Democrat, Neighbor’s Magazine, Alabama Living and numerous newspapers. The author of nine books, he is in demand as a speaker all over the South. He now has over 46,000 devotees who follow him daily on his Facebook page. He also offers collections of his stories and music in podcasts at www.seandietrich.com.

Like the wind, Sean of the South goes down red-dirt roads; through rural, farming communities; and into small towns, watching, listening and singing songs of faith, hope and love.

"Nothing lasts. Not hateful things, not good things. Not ugliness, not beauty. Not football games, back pain or kidney stones. Not newspaper delivery jobs. Not life. Not death. Not childhood wheelchairs. Not the dirt beneath you. There is one thing that will outlive this cotton-picking universe. You already know what it is. So find a person who needs some. And give it away."

 

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..